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Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: I still think that the aim should be that where a local authority has charge of a child, it should be "care" that it is given, not just "looking after", and that that is something that one wants to write into the Bill. As I have said already, I do not really accept this business about stigma because the stigma will still be there. It will merely attach itself again to the new phrase.

However, that is as may be. I should like to read what the noble and learned Lord has said and to consider it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 33:


Page 14, line 15, after ("parents") insert ("or relations").

The noble Earl said: While I realise that there seems to be adequate provision for the parents being brought into having responsibility for care and everything else, I feel that the local authority should also take into consideration any case where a relation might also be brought in perhaps with the idea of taking on responsibility for the children. This is basically a probing amendment–I am sure that it would be defective otherwise—merely to raise the question of bringing in the relations. I beg to move.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: Before the Minister replies, I should like to raise one minor matter that arises from the previous debate. When talking about "parents", are we talking about genetic parents or "parents" as defined in the Bill?

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Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: We will not go back to that. The provisions mean "parents" as defined in the first part of the Bill.

Turning to the amendment, of course I agree that relations can play an important part in bringing up children, especially where the parents are unable, for good reasons or bad, to provide that succour and support. The amendment seeks to ensure that that is recognised within the clause. However, as we discussed in a previous group of amendments, Clause 17 deals specifically with children looked after by a local authority. The main purpose of subsection (1) (b) is to ensure that when looking after a child a local authority should make use of the services which ordinary parents might be expected to use in looking after their own children. I cannot envisage circumstances where granny, as it were, might make use of services which mother and father might not consider to be appropriate services. In fact, I find it difficult to think of any example at all.

I hope with that explanation the noble Earl will appreciate that adding relatives in this context would not necessarily be helpful.

The Earl of Balfour: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 34 and 35 not moved.]

Lord Macaulay of Bragar moved Amendment No. 36:


Page 14, line 44, leave out subsection (5).

The noble Lord said: There are two amendments to be addressed, Amendments Nos. 36 and 37. If Amendment No. 36 is approved, subsection (5) of Clause 17 disappears, but I am assuming that that will not happen.

There is an important issue of principle about the rights of children. Clause 17(5) states:


"If, for the purpose of protecting members of the public from serious harm (whether or not physical harm) a local authority consider it necessary to exercise, in a manner which (but for this paragraph) would not be consistent with their duties under this section, their powers with respect to a child whom they are looking after, they may do so". I must say that that would not qualify for the first prize in the plain English competition for this year. It takes a bit of understanding of what it is all about. What I think it is all about—I may be wrong and no doubt the Minister will correct me if I am—is that if a child in Scotland is seen to be such a menace to the public that the local authority will then disregard the duties put upon them in the Bill to look after children and to do something with them (I am not quite sure what they can do) then in fact this clause seems to be superfluous.

In Clauses 64 and 69 the local authority has complete power to determine the children's hearing, and the local authority has powers to put unruly children away, if I may use the broad sense of the word. The powers are already there and I do not understand why this clause has been introduced.

Furthermore, quite apart form anything else, it is an arbitrary power that is given to the local authority without any reference to the right of the child. If I read

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Clause 17(5) correctly, a local authority can ignore its duties towards the care of the child, whether it is being cared for or looked after being neither here nor there. To use a colloquialism, they can "just bung them away somewhere". I do not understand why that is there.

Certainly, since the Minister at an earlier stage talked about the children's rights and the UN convention, the clause would seem to override completely the whole of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to be offered an opportunity to express his or her view as to what should happen to them.

Many things would have to be determined. First, someone would have to determine as a matter of fact that the public had to be protected from this particular individual. I do not know what the phrase "whether or not physical harm" means—I suppose it might mean threats of some kind or physical harm—and the child involved should have the opportunity to be represented to speak against being put away by the local authority on whom the duty to look after children is being imposed by the Bill. It may be of some interest to know where the child fits into this decision in Clause 17(5). I shall note with interest the Minister's answer. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I support Amendment No. 37. I accept that some children do exceed the bounds of acceptability and must briefly be dealt with in a manner which gives priority to other concerns. By retaining the minimum of "a primary consideration", I believe that we can ensure that a child is detained for the minimum period necessary while he comes round to a more reasonable point of view and is likely to behave more acceptably in future. In no way must the suspension of the paramountcy be on a determinate sentence basis. It must be determined by the child's own actions and his social worker's understanding of his progress.

The paramountcy of a child is of course central to the Bill and should only be suspended in extreme circumstances. There must not be any "throw away the key" mentality involved. I believe this to be a useful amendment.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: I am thrown into some confusion because I had understood that Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 were to be grouped with Amendments Nos. 29, 30 and 31. I appreciate that the noble Lord may move them at a later stage if he wants to, but I had certainly understood that they went together. As I see it, they make something of a coherent package.

The noble Lord's concern is to understand how we propose in future to deal with a situation where children in Scotland show a degree of anti-social behaviour such as potentially to present a serious threat to members of the public. As he well knows, for more than 20 years we have operated a system of children's panels where as much attention has been paid to the needs of the children as to the deeds of the children. We have the foresight and wisdom of Lord Kilbrandon to thank for that unique system of juvenile justice. I am sure it can

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continue to address the needs of children and young people throughout the 1990s and beyond as it did in the 1970s. For the record, I remain firmly committed to it.

I can well understand the concern which gave rise to the amendments, but I am not convinced that Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 are desirable. I believe there is a limit to the amount by which we should qualify or temper our approach. The Bill is clear. In general, the welfare of children is paramount. That is a very high standard and we think it right and proper. It is entirely appropriate that we should be concerned about safeguarding and protecting the wellbeing of young people and about promoting their welfare. But if those young people threaten members of society with serious harm we also need to consider how to deal with that situation. We are very keen to ensure that the needs of all children are properly addressed.

For children who offend we are developing a range of measures in Scotland including, not far from the noble Earl's home, innovative community-based projects where even persistent young offenders will be obliged to face up to the consequences of their actions with the aim of changing their behaviour and without resort to the traditional route of taking them possibly into secure accommodation. I make the point simply to emphasise that I am in complete sympathy with noble Lords who feel that the needs of the children must be addressed, even where they exhibit anti-social behaviour or other behavioural difficulties.

I hope I can reassure noble Lords that while we have to balance that set of difficulties against the paramountcy of the needs of the child, we are not departing from that principle of paramountcy where there are circumstances where other action may be necessary. It does not mean that because you must


"have regard for the purpose of protecting members of the public from serious harm", that as soon as you satisfy that test, or come within that context, any consideration of the paramountcy of the welfare and the needs of the child flies off. I hope I have explained how we seek to continue to achieve that balance.

Baroness Faithfull: I wonder whether I might take this opportunity to congratulate the noble and learned Lord on the fact that Scotland is concentrating on community projects rather than on residential projects. I know that some children have to go to residential care, but the community projects are so much better.

I have lately visited various projects in the community involving children who have done considerable damage to people's cars. They have stolen them and then gone joyriding in them. That has been a great sorrow and a great trouble to the neighbourhood. Nevertheless the local authority has set up community projects. It has built a garage. It has supplied men and insisted that the children attend from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and at the weekends, repairing cars. I do have to say that this was giving primary consideration to the children and to the parents. The children themselves were asked what their opinions were, whether they wished to go to residential care or whether they would stay in the community and subscribe to the projects offered to them. They chose

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the latter, and there has not been a single case of re-offending. I congratulate Scotland on its views on project-based social work.


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